Letters, June 2011



Brands one-off for F1?

With events in Bahrain having caused the postponement — and likely cancellation — of this year’s GP, are we not presented with a chance for the Formula 1 circus to stage an additional meeting in 2011? In these unique circumstances, there is scope to organise a non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.
Coming ‘home’ to this wonderful British circuit, which has often played host to such informal F1 races in the past, would be a great gesture of appreciation by the sport for the UK’s many motor racing fans and its worldclass motor sport industry.
Justin Bedford, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex


Run-off and out

I read with great interest the comments of Jackie Stewart on how circuit design affects the overtaking debate in F1 (April issue). His point about run-off areas being non-punitive is a surprisingly easy one to fix at zero cost.
At Jonathan Palmer’s excellent facility in Bedford, if you run over a white line which they determine you shouldn’t, the engine cuts. It kills your lap time, and in a race you would lose out to anyone behind you. This would punish the mistakes at corners such as Copse or Turn Eight in Turkey, where crossing the line is rewarded with slightly faster exit speeds.
It’s a simple, effective, reliable, cheap solution. Hang on — that would never work in F1…
Martin Brooks, Ealing, London


Kimi’s States of play
Sean Martin, Vancouver, Canada


Mears also bounced back

Doug Nye is scrupulous in his research for every book or article he has written, but I fear that in his article ‘Bouncing Back’ (May issue) he has committed an injustice by omitting Rick Mears from his chosen drivers who have returned after severe injury.
After winning his second Indy 500 in 1984 Rick had a horrific accident at Sanair, Canada, when his feet were almost removed after hitting a barrier head-on. Following a year of intense reconstruction and physiotherapy, upon his return he won the Pocono 500, having to be carried to and from his car.
During the following five seasons, before he retired in 1991, Rick won two further 500s and eight Indycar races. He is still affected by his injuries, but Rick has never complained once or used them as an excuse for any lack of subsequent performance.
For a great many reasons, including his remarkable recovery, Rick Mears must rank high in any list of outstanding race car drivers. Perhaps most especially in the Indianapolis 500 edition of Motor Sport!
Nick Goozee, Maiden Newton, Dorset


Humbled in Hungary

Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections (May issue) reminded me of a support race I competed in at the first Hungarian GP in 1986. I’d never driven across an Eastern bloc border — a high barbedwire fence stretching as far as the eye could see, passports examined by machine gun-toting officials, checks for people being smuggled out under transporters. It wasn’t the only time that week I had cause to think about how the accident of birth place affects us, fairly or otherwise.
The crowd was huge on race day and afterwards when we were packing up a couple of chaps came over with books they wanted signed. They told us they had to have special permission to travel that weekend, it had taken them three days to get to the circuit, they had never been allowed out of Hungary, they had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport, and they had tears in their eyes when we said we didn’t know whether we’d be back. “So this may be the only time in our lives we’ll see these cars.”
‘The price of everything and the value of nothing’; the phrase took me right back there.
“F1 must never be political,” Mr Ecclestone is quoted as saying. If only life was that simple.
Mike Knight, Abbots Leigh, Ascot, Berks


Exposure to kill for…

Well done Motor Sport on assisting the new DCI Barnaby in Midsomer Murders to determine that the body in the ‘barn find’ Cooper hadn’t committed suicide all those years ago. I’d love to know whether the magazine was used under commercial television’s new product placement rules, or had the producers recognised just how accurate the standard of Motor Sport’s reporting was 50 years ago (and continues to be today)?
Philip T Cracknell, Wain groves, Derbyshire


Dreams of race car design

Loved the articles on the Tyrrell P34 and the designers Gardner, Murray, Southgate et al (February issue). As a boy, I wanted to be a race driver until I saw Werner Buhrer’s beautiful illustrations in Road and Track. From then on I wanted to be a race car designer (and astronaut, it being the early 1970s and I being 10 or 11).
It was a bit tough to pursue those options living in a north-west Canadian city. However, I did see some fantastic cars and great drivers at Edmonton International Speedway. This was an amazingly ambitious facility for the time and place, affording ‘track-rats’ like me the chance to see Gilles Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg in Formula Atlantics and Mark Donohue and Denny Hulme in Can-Am. In particular, I recall the astonishing differences between the thundering 8-litre Chevy McLarens and the turbo Porsches. The McLaren bellowed and roared, while the Porsche whistled and popped.
Naturally, I filled school notebooks with sketches of race cars with great attention paid to velocity stacks or thinking of new ways to route turbocharger plumbing. To this day, when I’m in a not very interesting meeting, I find myself drawing a new Indycar or the next Fl winner. Thanks again for sparking my imagination.
Earl McKenzie, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


I shared Tiff’s dark day

Thank you for another varied and interesting edition of Motor Sport, of which I’ve been an avid reader since the mid-60s, and especially Tiff Needell’s scrapbook (May issue).
All motor racing fans of a certain age remember where they were when Jim Clark was killed, and like Tiff, I was also at Brands Hatch, although on the other side of the fence marshalling at Hawthorns Bend. The race was in part televised by the BBC, which had a camera near our post, and one of its team told us the sad news. It is not an understatement to say that we were all dumbfounded. The news didn’t leak out as far as any public announcement, but that did surprise me in view of its momentous importance.
I look forward to more pieces on that era which to me was one of the finest, with World Champions and their contemporaries racing in several different classes at the same meeting and being accessible to the general public.
Ian B Masters, Upper Colwyn Bay, North Wales


Kavanagh led Oz advance

Mat Oxley’s column ‘Advance Australia’ (May issue) referred to Jack Ahearn: ‘who in 1964 became the first Aussie to win a 500cc Grand Prix’. That honour actually belongs to Ken Kavanagh, who as a member of the Norton works team won the Ulster GP at Dundrod on August 15, 1953. Kavanagh disputed the lead with Geoff Duke’s works Gilera for much of the race, until Duke was delayed with clutch trouble following a pitstop and had to settle for second.
This is not to take anything away from Jack’s fine performance in Finland 11 years later, achieved as a true privateer, 20 years into a career that still had a decade to run. Jack’s runner-up position in the 1964 500cc World Championship was Australia’s best result in the premier class until Wayne Gardner’s ’87 win.
Congratulations on a superb magazine.
Jim Scaysbrook, Grose Vale, NSW Australia [It’s a fair cop, guy. Brain fade caused me to forgot about Kavanagh — Mat Oxley]


Proud to own Head’s Jag

It was with great interest that I read Patrick Head’s piece about his father, Michael (March issue). With most of us, our father’s interest in all things fast and mechanical seeps down the family tree — in my case grandfather to father Jeremy, then to myself. I wish to thank my father for purchasing Michael Head’s first Jaguar, an aluminium-bodied XK120 ‘GOT 900’. I’ve had the privilege of racing this lovely old car at the 60th anniversary Goodwood meeting in 2008 and also at Classic Le Mans.
The car has a superb history in the hands of Michael Head, who purchased it at the Swedish Motor Show in 1950. He then lent it back to the Danish importer for display on its motor show stand, so rare were these cars at the time.
Michael soon started competing in the 120, including a fine win in the Helsinki GP and many outings at Goodwood, Boreham, Helsinki and Silverstone. By 1953 he was still taking ‘podium’ places with the 120, but then bought a new C-type, followed by a D-type and then the Cooper Jaguar ‘HOT 95’ seen in Patrick’s piece.
In 1962 the XK120 was purchased by a friend of my father, who began a restoration although the car was still under 50,000 miles and quite usable. Restorations can take time; in this case it was 36 years later that the car reappeared, at the XK5Oth event at Donington in ’98, still not MOT’d or taxed! The owner suffered a stroke a few years later, so in 2006 a deal was done and we collected the still untaxed 120, the last tax disc showing 1963! This superb car made it back to Goodwood and gave me the most enjoyable race I could’ve wished for. It’s such a privilege to relive these great times in great cars.
Guy Broad, Corley, Coventry


Summer of ’79

Patrick Head’s column in the May edition brought back a flood of memories for me, especially a long-promised trip to that Grand Prix at Silverstone with my late father. He had promised we would stay in a hotel close by and take in all the GP weekend, rather than just the Sunday race as we had in previous years. It’s funny how you remember the music droning from the tannoy at the end of the day as the mechanics continued their work — Fleetwood Mac, as I recall. Summer evenings at Silverstone in those days were a real treat.
I also recall walking around a virtually deserted paddock at the end of qualifying and being able to get close to the drivers. Messrs Scheckter and Villeneuve were soaking up some late evening sun, sat in deckchairs without seemingly a care in the world. There was little security and the ability to walk up and ask for autographs and chat with them was almost surreal. A far cry from today.
David Mountain, Calgary, Canada


EJ as the new Bernie?

In Bernie Ecclestone’s recent interviews he has stated that if he does stand down, a good replacement wouldn’t require motor sport experience, more that they have good business acumen and negotiating skills.
Although Eddie Jordan does have motor sport experience as a driver, manager and team owner, he has banking experience and on-screen reporting know-how as well as excellent negotiating skills — many of which I witnessed first-hand while working with him for some years, followed by my time at March and Team Lotus. Even if Eddie’s ‘one-liners’ aren’t as subtle as Bernie’s, they are just as funny.
I believe Eddie would be a more than capable successor to Bernie.
Scott Williams, Taroona, Tasmania, Australia


Hardly a model experience…

Bill Boddy’s piece on model cars in May brought back memories of a disastrous meeting attended by Bill in November 1956, when the Miniature Motor Sport Club’s ‘London Hundred Final’ at Plough Lane, Wimbledon, had to be abandoned when a section of rail parted company with the track surface. Construction of a new four-lane circuit was put in hand; the largest ever built, this was in regular use until 1960 when we had to leave our home ground at Boston Manor. By then interest had waned and some of us had moved on to other activities or commitments.
Don Roskilly OBE, Pinner London